Pair of large camels

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Tang Dynasty, 618 - 907 AD
Earthenware with pigment
75 cm

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A pair of very large (height: 74 and 75 cm) pottery standing camels, both carrying saddlebags with a blanket and packing boards between their two humps. The animated camels have a deep arched neck and an open mouth with a curled tongue. Both saddlebacks are portraying expressive faces with big eyes, an upturned nose, exposed front teeth and two fangs. Camels were used as transportation animals; carrying goods on long distances, like the Silk Road.

The camels are part of the burial rituals in the Chinese Tang Dynasty. High-ranking persons in northern China were buried with mingqi: 'spirit goods'. It was believed that life after death was a continuation of the present life, and therefore the deceased was provided with all the objects necessary to continue living after death, such as terracotta animals, food, clothing, valuables, as well as warriors, musicians and guardians. These two camels were meant as forms of transportation and carrying goods, they were commonly found in Chinese tombs. The tombs were designed architecturally so that, together with the objects, they provided both a comfortable final resting place as well as a safe journey for the deceased into the afterlife. Ancestor worship was very important, for the welfare of the deceased and for the welfare of the entire family. In the period of the Tang Dynasty the number of objects that could be included in tombs depended on the individual's rank and wealth; more objects meant a high ranking and wealthy person. 


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